Wednesday, March 14, 2012: Kids' Maximum Shelf: The Hunt

Editors' Note

Maximum Shelf: The Hunt

In this edition of Kids' Maximum Shelf--the monthly Shelf Awareness feature that focuses on an upcoming title that we love and believe will be a great handselling opportunity for booksellers everywhere--we present The Hunt by Andrew Fukuda, which goes on sale on May 8, 2012. The review and interviews are by Jennifer M. Brown. St. Martin's Press helped support the issue.


Books & Authors

YA Review: The Hunt

The Hunt by Andrew Fukuda (St. Martin's Press, $17.99 hardcover, 9781250005144, 304p., ages 12-up, May 8, 2012)

Andrew Fukuda (The Crossing) takes the feeling of isolation that dominates adolescence and builds a world around it in a novel where the tension rarely slackens.

What if your family were different from every other family in your town? Not just because of the house you live in or the car you drive, but different in a life-threatening way? You'd do everything in your power to hide that difference in order to survive. That's what 17-year-old narrator Gene has been trained to do his whole life. He dares not laugh or cry, walk into the sunlight, or sweat, or eat an apple plucked ripe from a tree. If he did, his secret would be out, and he would be devoured by his neighbors and classmates. Literally. Gene is the last heper--human--left in a world of vampire-like carnivores who consider hepers the greatest delicacy. Although they call themselves "people," these fanged creatures show no emotion, melt in the sun and think of eating an apple the way a vegan would abhor eating foie gras.

Gene lost his mother and sister when he was still too young to remember them well. Then his father disappeared. Now Gene must masquerade alone, with only his memories and his father's advice to sustain him. He keeps to himself. He's smart and attractive, so girls find him mysterious and alluring, but standoffish. He does well as a swimmer--a sport in which his sweat won't reveal his heper scent, and individuals compete on behalf of a team. So his teammates don't pay him much attention either. But there is one girl, whom he calls Ashley June, who gives him a "wistful, longing glance," as she has dozens of times over the past few years. She's popular, beautiful and smart. But romance would be the greatest threat to Gene's true identity. So in a moment of intimacy, his grip on her elbow tightens, and she misunderstands it as passion: "I realize how, from the outside, on the other side of the mask, how easy it is for loathing to be mistaken for longing." His father's most frequent piece of advice to his son ("like a life motto") was: ""Never forget who you are." And for Gene, remembering who he is becomes his nightmare: "Every time I... hold in a sneeze or stifle a laugh or pretend to flinch at a slip of stray light, I am reminded of who I am./ A fake person."

Fukuda perfectly captures the excruciating experience of high school, where it feels as if every gesture receives close scrutiny by the entire student body. For everyone else, the right phrase, the right thing to do comes instinctively--but not for Gene. He suppresses his emotions, shaves in order to be as hairless as his neighbors and wears fangs to appear like them. But then the Ruler announces that for the first time in a decade, he will hold a Heper Hunt. Gene discovers there are others like him. But they are about to be killed and eaten. Everyone will draw a number, and those with winning numbers earn a place on the Hunt. And then Gene's worst fear comes true: his number is chosen. He will be forced to hunt down his own kind--or be devoured himself.

The story unfolds outside of time and place. People use microwaves but ride to and from school in a horse-drawn bus. The setting seems rural yet everyone in Gene's town is well educated. The author includes only the details that matter. The predominant members of society call themselves "people," even though they grow fangs and scratch their wrists to indicate the human equivalent of laughter. The word "human" occurs only once, in a recollected conversation between Gene and his father. Perhaps the only good thing about the Hunt is that Gene realizes he's not the last of his kind. Yet, when the lottery winners arrive for the hunt, the director of the Heper Institute assures them "these are the very last hepers in existence." But if Gene is living covertly, might there be others? Why has the Palace taken such a keen interest in Gene?

Fukuda turns up the violence a notch from Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games because this society is hardwired to kill the hepers. In The Hunger Games, most of the citizenry detested the games; here, it's the government that protects the prey from the citizenry--until the time of The Hunt. Fukuda's language is as graphic as it is eloquent ("The knife catches Beefy... impaling him square in the chest. Because of the liquefying effect of the sun on him... the dagger disappears into it like a spoon into soup").

The author occasionally breaks the tension with welcome humorous scenes, as when Gene first encounters the hepers, his flirtatious exchanges with Ashley June, and his code names for the other lottery winners (Beefy, Crimson Lips, and Gaunt Man for a particularly lascivious old man, to name a few). Readers could stop with this book and many of their questions would be satisfied. But the fates of several key characters remain open-ended. Fukuda also leaves open the question of what happened to Gene's family, and what lies ahead for him since he can't go home again. Readers will hanker for answers in the next volume. Meanwhile, they'll discover a kindred spirit in Gene, who so eloquently describes the feeling of being an island in the middle of a vast ocean. Because Gene narrates, we know that he must survive, but how he survives is what propels us swiftly through these pages.


Authors Unplugged: Andrew Fukuda and Alyson Noël

What do Andrew Fukuda (The Hunt) and Alyson Noël (Fated, St. Martin's, May 2012) have in common? A penchant for world-building and an editor named Rose Hilliard. Hilliard first began working with Noël in 2007, and says that she and Noël "came up through the ranks together." So when Hilliard received the manuscript for Andrew Fukuda's The Hunt, she was eager to share her newest author with one of her most established writers. According to Hilliard, "Alyson has become one of The Hunt's biggest fans." Here the two authors interview each other about their latest novels and their craft.

Andrew Fukuda: When I received the galley of Fated, I was like a kid grinning ear-to-ear, let into Disneyland hours before the gates opened. The pages pulsated with life, the story line sucked me in. But even as I marveled at this new world, I wondered: Which emotion was stronger, the sadness of bidding farewell to the world of The Immortals, or the excitement of creating the brand-new world of The Soul Seekers?

Alyson Noël: As much as I enjoyed writing The Immortals, I found myself missing my characters. I talked to them more than my own husband! But it wasn't long before I was lured by the promise of creating The Soul Seekers world, and all of the lovely research that goes along with it.
Which brings me to you: I was hooked from the first sentence. What inspired you to write this amazing, fast-paced story of love and survival where you turn the tables on how we've come to view vampires--creating solid, empathetic characters who are pitted against them?

Fukuda: It began with a single image in my head: a boy sitting in a classroom, desperately lonely despite the many students around him. This boy had a secret, I came to see, one so awful that if it were ever made known, his otherwise civil classmates would--in a split second--kill him. I pondered what that secret might be. When it came to me, I literally jumped out of my seat: the boy was the only surviving human in a world filled with vampire-like creatures. No existence could be lonelier or scarier than that. So for me the character came first, then the world around him, and last, the story line.
With Fated, did the characters come to you first, or was it the setting?

Noël: I love that a single image was the jumping off point for the complex world you created.
For me, there's usually a theme I want to explore, or a question I'm looking to answer, and then I build the characters and the world around it. The idea for The Soul Seekers was born out of the research I'd done for The Immortals. I read a lot of books on metaphysics and ancient lore and legend, and noticed how often themes of Shamanism cropped up. I knew immediately that it was the next idea I wanted to explore.
When it came time to create the cast, I did what I always do: I conjured a character that is woefully unprepared to face the kind of life-changing challenge that is barreling ahead. In this case, it was Daire Santos--the 16-year-old daughter of a Hollywood make-up artist who's spent her life moving from one movie set to another. Her life has made her both fiercely independent and emotionally guarded. To succeed as a Seeker, she'll have to endure a brutal initiation and allow herself to become vulnerable in ways she always sought to avoid.

Fukuda: Daire Santos is an amazing protagonist. Some authors create protagonists vastly different from themselves while other authors enjoy creating protagonists who are more natural extensions of themselves. Is Daire Santos an extension of Alyson Noël?

Noël: Daire is probably best described as containing bits of the real me, and rather large chunks of the fantasy me. Like me, she's more of an observer than a joiner, though I like to think that we're both pretty adventurous. I have a habit of becoming my characters. I craft each scene as though it's happening to me. I used to think everyone did this until I came across an author who told me that, rather than merging into the action, she directs the action.
I'm curious to know if you're a method writer or a director?

Fukuda: I'm as pure a method writer as they come. This is especially true when it comes to action scenes. Because I like to keep the action raw and visceral, I often throw my protagonist into predicaments from which even I'm not sure how he's going to escape. Sometimes, I paint him into such a terrible corner, I can see him turning to me and saying, "Are you kidding me? How am I supposed to get out of this?"

Noël: And that's exactly why I could not stop turning the pages! Though I also love the underlying theme of finding one's place in the world. When Gene describes himself as feeling like "a fake person," it reminded me of my own (failed) high school attempts to fit in. Was this a conscious idea on your part, or, did it just sort of spontaneously surface as you went along?

Fukuda: Ahh, high school. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Dickens was writing about high school, right? Like most, my adolescence swung like a pendulum between the extremes of self-discovery and self-forfeiture, the latter of which happened whenever I was peer-squeezed into one of those false molds you mentioned. During the months I wrote The Hunt, I dredged up some pretty painful high school memories. Writing it proved to be emotionally quite exacting, to say nothing of the physical toil.
As a prolific author with numerous award-winning bestsellers under your belt, how do you sustain the emotional and creative energy needed for the long haul?

Noël: While I've always wanted to be a writer, for a very long time I allowed life circumstances to stand in the way of the dream. I've been making up for lost time ever since. I've created a pretty intense schedule for myself, but the truth is, I love every second of it! Writing never feels like a job, and the dress code is comfortably lax compared to the flammable polyester dresses of my flight-attendant days.
I read that you were once a criminal prosecutor. What was it that inspired you to take the leap into YA fiction?

Fukuda: Like all lawyers, I hated my job and jumped ship at the first opportunity. Just kidding! I actually loved being a prosecutor. But fulfilling as it was, my love for writing ran deeper and truer. In my spare time, I worked on The Hunt. When the book really started coming into its own, I'd wake up early to write before the workday began. But it took a go-for-broke tenacity, the kind of fierce determination you also harnessed to make the publishing dream come true.


Join The Hunt

"After reading The Hunt in one sitting, I remember thinking: it's about time someone combined the two hot genres of vampire and dystopian YA," said Joe Goldschein, associate director of marketing. "The Hunt is an exhilarating, high-concept book that turns the world as we know it on its axis. Vampire dystopia makes perfect sense because if vampires ever were to exist, natural selection says that they would eventually rise to power as the dominant species. Humans would become little more than food or something to be studied at a university--or, in the case of our narrator, someone who must live a lie every day of his life in order to survive in a world of predators."

Griffin began building buzz early, printing thousands of ARCs that were widely distributed to the trade and offered to consumers. Beginning in January, more than 200,000 fans of YA started to hear about The Hunt via the Griffin Teen e-mail newsletter. "Our colleagues at are also talking about The Hunt to science fiction and fantasy fans and the team over at the Heroes and Heartbreakers romance community have fallen in love with the book, too," Goldschein noted.

Every paranormal or dystopian YA book this spring is being positioned in one way or another as perfect for fans of The Hunger Games--and The Hunt is no exception. What makes The Hunt different, Goldschein said, is that it actually is perfect for fans of The Hunger Games. Chosen in a lottery to hunt the last remaining humans--aka hepers--Gene's life depends on keeping his secret from a ruthless pack of hunters. The Hunger Games and The Hunt share a lottery and a life hanging in the balance. Goldschein said, "The Hunt's imaginative landscape, action, grit and heart make it unique. It's a fast-paced page-turner that will keep a reader from putting it down, no matter how many times you tell yourself 'just one more chapter.' The timing is perfect for a tie-in campaign."

In March, two months before publication, an online advertising campaign launches to tie in with the release of The Hunger Games film. To introduce Hunger Games fans to The Hunt, Griffin has created a free e-sampler titled "How to Survive the Hunger Games." The e-sampler includes a chapter from The Hunger Games Companion (on Katniss's survival skills) as well as the first 80 pages of The Hunt. Goldshein said, "Our belief is this: once you read the first 80 pages, there's no turning back." The sampler is offered as a free download on the series' microsite, where visitors will find a sweepstakes with a chance to win a sunglasses gift card and signed hardcovers; a widget for bloggers to feature when they review The Hunt; and more. There is a dedicated Facebook page,, hosting excerpts, contests and keeping fans engaged with the world of The Hunt.

Come publication day, May 8, the online advertising campaign kicks into high gear. The world of The Hunt has such cinematic appeal that a full-featured trailer is a natural here. The trailer will be heavily promoted online, featured on all related Griffin/Macmillan sites, and it will be the centerpiece of a campaign that will deliver over 15 million impressions.

St. Martin's Griffin invites you to Join The Hunt.


Book Brahmin: Andrew Fukuda

On your nightstand now:

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Favorite books when you were a child:

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl; Watership Down by Richard Adams

Your top five authors:

Stephen King, David Guterson, Jhumpa Lahiri, John Burnham Schwartz, Ernest Hemingway.

Book you've faked reading:

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. I was simply too busy that semester sunbathing on the quad and playing intramural sports. Somehow I was able to write a paper on the book overnight; I grabbed random quotes and wrapped them around a completely random theory. The professor gave me an A+.

Book you are an evangelist for:

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. Stark and disquieting, it slayed me inside with its haunting gracefulness. The last paragraph devastated me, and still does with every rereading.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Jim the Boy by Tony Earley. Go ahead, take a look at the cover, and tell me you don't smell the sweet mountain air, hear the laughter of children soughing in the grass, feel the summer sun burnishing youthful hope into your skin. But the cover evokes childhood, like the language of the book itself, with a deceptive simplicity.

Book that changed your life:

The Bible

Favorite line from a book:

 "They wept together, for the things they now knew." From Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri. A sentence that captures--with painful precision--the separation of intimacy, the intimacy of separation.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie. I read it when I was still a naïve, thin-skinned 10-year-old. The book's ending floored me; I couldn't move for an hour. But now, after reading a few too many novels with a Sixth Sense–like plot twist, I'm too hardened and calloused to be caught by surprise anymore. Somebody sandpaper my skin down, erase my reading memory, and put The Murder of Roger Ackroyd back in my hands again, please.


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